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How Virginia schools handle COVID exposures; which students should quarantine

'The amount we expect to see quarantine depends on a few different factors'
Virus Outbreak New Jersey
Posted at 5:18 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 07:41:42-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- To quarantine students or not to quarantine students: that is the question facing our school systems as they all head back to in-person learning this fall.

"We work with the systems to help identify who are cases and who meet those qualifications," Cat Long, public information officer for the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, said.

The systems will be looking to the folks working at their local health departments for guidance.

"We work with the schools to determine what the situation was in that classroom and then go from there," Long said.

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Current guidance from the Virginia Department of Health says this:

If a student is fully vaccinated and they have close contact with a COVID positive person, they do not need to quarantine if they have no symptoms, however, they should wear a mask and get tested 3-5 days later.

If a student is not fully vaccinated, and they have close contact with a COVID positive person, they should quarantine for 14 days to be safe.

However, a school system can allow the student to leave quarantine if they have no symptoms after 10 days, or after 7 days if a COVID test conducted on or after day five of their exposure is negative.

If just one person is wearing a mask, or neither person is wearing on, and they are at a distance of less than 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more within a 24 hour period, that is considered close contact, and that person may need to quarantine.

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To help prevent quarantines, Long said schools should try to create learning pods or cohorts where students would stay with the same kids all day long to prevent spread.

"The amount we expect to see quarantine depends on a few different factors. Number one, spread within the community and spread within the school. Number two, the logistics of who is and isn't wearing masks and how close they are sitting to each other. And then number three, how large those pods are," Long said.

"If every child is cohorted, separated by three feet of distance and wearing masks, even if one child got COVID in that classroom, it doesn't sound like anyone else would have to quarantine?" CBS 6 problem solver Melissa Hipolit asked Long.

"Yes, if we could absolutely confirm that was the circumstance," Long replied.

Long said school systems will have to balance the scientific guidelines with the practical reality on the ground.

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Mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway.

Virginians age 12+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required, so go to Vaccine Finder to search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
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What you can and should not do once you have been fully vaccinated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.